Monday, January 27, 2020
Teresa Martinez - Belen Jesuit Preparatory School
MIAMI | Kevin Valido, a 17-year-old senior at Belen Jesuit Prep in Miami, has published a children’s book about inclusion.
The book, “Know Me For My Ability Not My Disability,” tells the story of two children, Jack and George, who attend a camp with students who have disabilities and learn that although they have differences they also share many similarities. The book features beautiful illustrations that help captivate the reader and tell the story.
Valido has volunteered at Shake-A-Leg in Miami since the summer of 2017, logging over 500 hours of service to date. His dedication to the charity led to a passion to teach others about the importance of inclusiveness.
“I’ve been volunteering as a mentor at Shake-A-Leg because I love their goal to be inclusive,” said Valido. “They aim to welcome all people no matter where you come from or what you’ve gone through.”
Shake-A-Leg is a non-profit working with children and adults with physical, developmental and economic challenges in a marine environment. The organization uses Biscayne Bay to teach environmental lessons, therapeutic sailing, swimming and kayaking.
“During my time there, I learned the value of inclusion and I saw how beautiful it is to see it in action but then I realized that it wasn’t like that in the ‘real’ world,” said Valido. “Society tends to push people with disabilities aside and use offensive words to describe them. It was then that I realized that I wanted to take the lessons and experiences I had at Shake-A-Leg and share them with the rest of the community.”
The idea of writing a book occurred during his first summer volunteering at the organization. He said he realized that if he could help shape the way young children think about people with disabilities, he could make a difference in the way they handle situations as they grow up.
“My faith played a huge role in my desire to do service in the community,” said Valido. “At Belen Jesuit, doing the Magis (to strive to do more in sharing the Gospel values, learning, and serving) is engrained in us since our first day as students, and as a current peer minister, I took those lessons to heart.”
It took Valido nearly a year — his junior year in high school — to write the book. Belen English teacher Anthony Alexander helped guide him. Valido also searched worldwide for an illustrator who could bring to life the characters and a publisher to put it all together.
“As I read Kevin's book, I didn't know what to be more impressed with: his skill in writing a children's book, or his initiative in finding a publisher and carrying the project through to fulfillment,” said Alexander. “It was a great pleasure to read Kevin's book, just as it was a great pleasure to experience his intelligence, literary skills, and leadership abilities when he was my student.”
Valido hopes to share the story with students at local elementary and middle schools throughout 2020. He also intends to take part in book events and hopes to be invited to speak at book fairs.